Monday, December 31, 2012

Still Don't Know

Allow me to apologize now for a possibly useless, rambling post.  It's New Year's Eve, it's a blogging day for me, and I don't know what to write. 

I could skip writing today, but I skipped last Friday when my family was getting together for Christmas.  Hate to skip again.  A routine is of no worth if you don't stick to it.

Still don't know what to write.

The last few years, I wrote New Year's posts about the blessings of the departing year, and hopes and goals for the upcoming year.  I can't make myself do that this time.  2012 was too . . . I don't have the word for it.  A full year.  Full not as in busy, but as in filling.  A year I need to digest more before I can write much about it.


And goals for 2013?  Life is too uncertain right now to make myself set goals for a whole year.  I know, I know -- one needs direction or one wanders.  Goals can always be changed when circumstances change.  But I simply can't make myself think too far ahead these days.  I'm taking life one step at a time.  Everything feels too shaky these days.

No . . . that's not quite an accurate description.  The ground I'm walking on feels solid.  It's just that the path forward is unclear.  I'm Indiana Jones taking that grand Step of Faith in the third movie.  I keep walking -- and my feet keep landing on rock -- but I can't see any of the rock.  I only feel it holding me up.

You want to hear a goal?  Here's my goal for the year: to "keep in step with the Spirit" (Gal 5).  Like stepping into the footprints someone else leaves in the snow ahead of me.  I still don't know where I'm going this year -- no bloody clue.  I just know who has to be leading the way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Techno Addicts

We're in Kansas for Christmas, at my in-laws.  With hubby's parents, two sisters, one brother-in-law, and two nieces.  As the Blessed Day wound down, my sister-in-law remarked on how the cousins' faces were all aglow:  they were lit up by the laptops and iPads sitting in their laps.

Sigh.  Can you relate?

This same sister-in-law told us how some friends of hers have dealt with their kids' uber-connectedness.  At nine o'clock, everyone in the house turns off their phones and puts them on a shelf.  No texting or phone calls until morning.  In our house, we'd have to put the iPods and laptops away, too, to prevent instant messaging or Facebooking.  I love that idea.  I'm trying to decide if it's worth the battle to try to implement it.

I've been troubled for a long time at my daughters' attachment to technology.  Not that TV, computers, and cell phones are bad things in and of themselves.  But they are too attached.  This is not healthy.

I've realized, however, that I can't simply forbid one thing without helping them figure out what to fill that hole with.  What else can they do with themselves?  It really should be a much easier question to answer than it is.

How about you read a book instead of watching a TV show?

How about having your friends over face-to-face instead of skypeing?

How about playing basketball outside instead of playing sports on the Wii?

How about making dinner, cleaning your room, doing a craft, writing a story . . .

It's not that they don't like any of those activities -- we just allowed them to develop a taste for the lesser things.  Like preferring a Big Mac to filet mignon.  Shame on us.  One of the primary things I would change if I could raise my children again.

So, again, I have to decide how much I'm going to fight this addiction now.  It would be a lot easier if they came to the conclusion that this was unhealthy for them and wanted to change their ways themselves.  Then I'm in the role of Helper rather than Controller.  They're quickly getting too old to be effectively controlled.

The challenges of parenting teenagers.  It's harder to shepherd their hearts than to control their behavior.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm in Kansas.  Nothing particular planned today.  Our church in Sioux City has two huge Christmas Eve extravaganzas happening at the Orpheum theater.  I suppose it would be nice to see those.  One disadvantage of always being "home" for the holidays is we are never in town to experience our own church's Christmas Eve services.

Our church in NJ did four services on Christmas Eve -- two "family" services (geared toward kids), and two adult services, including a candlelight service at eleven.  As I said, I never got to go to one, but if the candlelight service was in the spirit of the Advent and Lent services they held every year, I think I would have enjoyed it very much.

I think if I could just choose for myself my own Christmas Eve celebration, it would include a small, meaningful candlelight service at a church where I don't know anyone in particular, so I don't feel a need to be social and can focus on why I'm there.  Focus on what happened on this night (okay, I realize it didn't actually happen on THIS night, but on the night that we are remembering this night).

To focus for a few minutes on the amazing concept of the God of the universe -- creator and sustainer of all there is -- holy and separate from all he has created -- the God of the universe making a conscious choice to give up the privileges of deity for a time and become one of us.  To feel our pains.  To live our struggles.  To be tempted as we are.  To be hungry and cold and lonely and discouraged and abandoned by everyone who was supposed to love him . . .

He CHOSE to bear that pain.  Sometimes, I think I've heard the end of the story so often and take it so for granted that I forget the awesomeness of each moment of the narrative.  And this moment -- this voluntary stepping into the limitations of human existence -- it's a big one.

Recently I had occasion to re-read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and I was struck again at that famous shortest-verse-in-the-Bible: "Jesus wept."  I think there's so much more significance there that we realize.  Jesus was standing there ready to raise his friend from the dead and end the misery of the mourning loved ones around him.  He knew the end of the story and that it was good -- phenomenally good.  Why did he weep?  He wept because it hurt him to see those he loved in pain.  Even when he knew the pain was going to be short and was going to be worth it, he entered into their pain with them and felt it deeply and it caused him to weep.

May I never lose the wonder of a God loving me enough to voluntarily enter into my life, my walk, my pain.  Hail, the Incarnate Deity.  Thank you, Lord.  Happy birthday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Honesty

Interesting the way the events of life have lined up these days.  An unexplainable act of evil.  A prediction of the end of the world.  The commemoration of a Savior's birth.  The pains and questions we are each dealing with in our own souls -- I have mine, you have yours.  No coincidences here, I'm sure.

Our immediate instinct after an event like Sandy Hook is to determine to take control of the situation so nothing like this ever happens again.  Take away all the guns -- or arm all the teachers.  Lock away all the mentally and emotionally disturbed -- or integrate them better into society so they heal.  Protect the schools like an army base -- or bring the kids home to homeschool.  Nothing ever actually gets done because we can't ever agree on what needs to be done.  Because deep in our hearts, if we're honest with ourselves (which we rarely are), we know there's nothing that we can do to fix this.

For many of us, our personal pains and questions echo the events of the day and take us even deeper.  We see pain within . . . we see brokenness within . . . we even see evil within, if we're honest enough to face up to it (which we rarely are).  And we are determined to take control of the situation so nothing like this ever happens within us again.  Stay away from people -- or embrace people more.  Put up protection walls -- or open up the heart to others.  Seek knowledge and advice -- or forget what I know and go by my instincts.  Discpline myself -- or indulge myself.  Nothing gets fixed within us because we don't really know how we need to be fixed.  And deep down in our hearts, if we're honest with ourselves (which we rarely are), we know that even if we knew how to fix ourselves, we couldn't or wouldn't be able to do it.

At some point, each of us must come to the horrible realization that we are out of the Garden of Eden and there is no way back.

Many of us never allow ourselves to realize that fact fully.  We psyche ourselves up with the idea of a spark of good within us all, ignoring the selfish motives behind all of our good -- rationalizing our selfish motives as self-actualization and healing, the ultimate virtue in modern life -- explaining away the evils prevalent in the world as "freedom" and "choice" and "nature", which must be inherently good.  We refuse to see how broken the world is, because if this is true, it seems to render our lives as a hopeless, meaningless wallow of futility.

Enter into our hopeless wallow . . . a baby.  A baby called "Christ the Lord" -- that is, the Messiah, the promised one, the one sent to save, who is by his nature Master and Sovereign over all and able to move the universe at large and the human heart at small to bring all things together for his glory and for the good of his people.

A Lord.  A holy, just, omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving Lord.  Exactly what we need, if we're honest with ourselves (which we rarely are).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Testing . . . 1, 2, 3 . . .

My eldest starts final exams today.  I'm also giving my youngest a "final" today to finish her semester.  This isn't necessarily for the purposes of demonstrating what she learned -- I already know what she learned.  It's simply to prepare her for taking finals at "real" school someday.

I have such mixed feelings about testing in schools.  Really, in a lot of ways, it's such a sham.  Most final exams these days are in multiple choice form -- so the teacher can grade it faster, or so results can be easily compared between schools.  But multiple choice tests are a ridiculous way to evaluate someone's knowledge and skills, especially if your concern is how well the student can think.

My Western Civ professor in college had a fascinating system for our exams.  The class period before, Dr. Allan would guide us, as a class, to come up with four essay questions.  In coming up with the questions, we ended up discussing how they could be answered, because we needed to be sure they were sufficiently broad but also sufficiently focused.  We also needed to be sure that they addressed the essential information covered in the class.  That class period was a WONDERFUL review of the material.  Then we went home and prepared ourselves to answer those four questions in detail.  Dr. Allan chose three of the four to put on the test -- we chose two of his three to answer. 

I loved this method of evaluation.  It ensured that I was required to mentally review all the information and find connections and relationships, but in the end, I was allowed to choose the questions I felt most comfortable with to be evaluated on.  I'm using a form of this on my daughter's test today.

A teacher I taught with in Hutchinson had another interesting "test" format.  One class period, his students entered the room and the screen in front was pulled down over the chalkboard.  He explained to them that there was an essay question on the board behind the screen and in a moment, he would show it to them.  Then, he would leave the room for twenty minutes and allow them, as a class, to discuss how to answer the question.  Upon his return, everyone would be required to write their essays, and at the end of the class, he would take them all, choose ONE essay out of the class pile to grade, and every student in the class would get that grade.

Let me tell you:  the smart kids in that class made darn sure that EVERY KID IN THE ROOM knew how to answer that essay question thoroughly.  Was it an effective evaluation method?  Maybe more of an effective teaching method.  Risky . . . I never heard if he got parent complaints, but I can't imagine he didn't.  Fascinating, in any case.

Anywho . . . my daughter takes four finals today, and three tomorrow, each of which counts for 20% of her final grade.  A hoop to jump through, I suppose.  I think she's ready to be done with school and get on with real life . . . whatever that is . . .

Monday, December 17, 2012

Do Not Be Overcome by Evil

My little post last Friday about the sex talk seemed to weaken as the tragedy of the day progressed.  Oh.  There just aren't words for what happened in Connecticut.  I can't even allow myself to think too deeply about what actually happened in that school building -- it overwhelms me.  All I can do is pray.

All the talk about gun control and mental illness and school security is probably appropriate at some point and will need to happen.  But while my hubby and I were listening to the details roll in all day on Friday, we kept listening for people willing to proclaim the truth about this:  it was evil. 

I've mentioned before, I believe, our Bible study teacher from years ago who was a former Satanist.  Full-blown devil-worshipper.  Well acquainted with the forces of darkness.  And he used to tell us complacent, comfortable, cultural Christians in his midst, with great passion, "You just don't understand.  There is Satan.  There is evil." 

No gun restrictions, mental health care, or security measures can stop evil.  That doesn't mean we don't do what we need to do to be wise in those arenas.  But we cannot cure the disease without an accurate diagnosis.

Here's the good news:  the fact that we can recognize evil when it is in our midst reveals that we have an innate knowledge of what is not evil.  The presence of evil gives evidence of the presence of good.  The wonderful quote going around attributed to Mr. Rogers (and who knows, these days, if that attribution is accurate) reminds us that when bad things happen, there are always the good people there, too.  Teachers who give their lives to protect their students.  Firemen who march up the stairs of burning buildings to guide others out.  Policemen who buy boots for barefooted homeless men.

We can never forget, when Evil strikes in the worst way, that Good is there, and Good is stronger, and Good has a name and a battle plan and warriors on the field -- and what's more, the deciding battle has already been won.  As I told my youngest on Friday, Satan is no more than an enraged lame-duck trying to destroy as much as he can before he goes.

"Do not be overcome by evil," scripture tells us, "but overcome evil with good."  We would not be instructed to do this if, in the power of Christ, it were not possible to do.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Three Tips for Talking about the Birds and the Bees

Let me tell you, I have messed up a lot in raising my kids.  I've made some monumental mistakes with them over the years.  Things I swore I'd never do.  Things that make me cringe when I think about them.  It's truly the grace of God that my children aren't more screwed up than they are. 

But it seems that one thing I managed to get relatively right (at least up to now) is the sex talk.  Can't tell you how; just stumbled onto it somehow.  Not that I did everything perfect -- and they're still a little young for me to declare victory in this area -- but I sometimes hear fellow parents talk about how they deal with this topic with their kids and cringe at the mistakes I fear they're making.  I'm tempted to speak up, but I rarely do -- and then I worry that maybe I should have spoken up.

Sex is like fire. When kept under control, it is an amazing, beautiful, valuable gift from God; when allowed to roam out of its appropriate boundaries, it can cause life-altering destruction.  With this in mind, and with much humility on my part, I'd like to point out the most common things I see friends do when discussing sex with their kids that I fear will backfire on them in the long run.


1) Don't wait too long.  I understand the desire to keep your child innocent and protected from the unhealthy sex-saturated culture around them.  But the unfortunate fact is that, as long as you live in that culture (and there's no escaping it completely), the culture will have some say.  You will simply have to broach the subject before you want to.  There's no way around it.

If your children reach the point that they realize there is this wonderful, mysterious thing out there called SEX that everyone else seems to know about and talk about and giggle about, and their parents don't want them to know anything about it . . . you've already lost a battle.  You may not have the honor of being their first source of information on the topic, but you want to be able to quickly follow up on the first -- and you darn well want to be sure you're their primary source of information on the topic, because almost every other source they will stumble upon will be dreadfully misinformed and will not have your child's best interests at heart.


2) Have more than one "talk".  This goes hand-in-hand with number one.  Your child will hear about sex and need some questions answered long before they are ready for the full anatomy and physiology lesson.  Stop thinking about this in terms of THE Sex Talk.  There are many sex talks.  Feel free to give information in dribbles, on an as-needed basis, over the course of many years. 

As your kids get older, look for opportunities to increase their knowledge at a healthy pace.  TV and movies tend to open that door.  Remember: if a particular bit of information is mentioned or hinted at in a show that you know your child's peers are watching, then you should assume that your child's peers know about this and your child is likely to hear about it soon.  Better that they hear about it accurately from you.  In addition, talking about sex in frequent small bits will make taking about sex easier, which leads me to number three . . .


3) RELAX.  I realize for some of you, this is easier said than done, but I'm telling you -- you have to work on this.  Your kids will sense your discomfort, it will make them uncomfortable, and they won't come to you with questions -- and you want them to come to you with questions.  This is NOT a topic you want to leave to the schools and the world.

Yes, sex is a big deal, but that doesn't mean you have to make every sex discussion a big deal.  A quick word in the car on the way home from school in immediate response to a remark from your child will probably be much more effective than stealing away into a private room when you get home to sit face-to-face, hand-in-hand, prepared for profound and deep revelations.  Talking about sex casually does not necessarily encourage an inappropriately casual attitude about sex.  I promise you, their friends talk about it quite casually and talk about it ALL THE TIME (and homeschooled parents, don't think your kids are any different).  Your reticence doesn't give the subject a sense of holiness; it merely gives you the appearance of being repressed and out of touch and, again, an unreliable source of information.  Be accurate, be honest, be sincere . . . but try your best not to be too intense.


So, there you go.  Offered with much humility and with no guarantees -- I mean, every kid's different and I'm no expert.  But now my mind is eased a bit.  Thanks for listening.  :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bondservant's Life

When I first received my copy of The Bondservant's Life by John Brenner Chandler to review, I groaned a little inside.  It's huge.  It's heavy-looking -- physically and mentally.  I wasn't sure I was up to reading something like this right then.

I'm not groaning anymore.  It is physically huge and mentally heavy -- in fact, I'll confess I haven't even finished reading it yet.  But that's because I'm chewing slowly on the profound insight and wisdom in this wonderful tome.

This is a big, broad analysis of what is involved in taking on the mantle of "bondservant" of Christ.  It analyzes scripture indepth; it describes ancient covenants and the different covenants in scripture; and ultimately (I see by the table of contents) gets into spiritual warfare.  Maybe it's just where I'm at in my own spiritual walk (many of these themes I've been studying on my own recently, which is why I requested the book), but I am filled to the brim with each chapter I read.

Now, note:  this is not light reading or easy reading.  This isn't one to take to read on the drive home to see family for Christmas.  This is one to plot out a half hour every day starting in the new year to read, meditate over, and pray through.  And I highly recommend doing that.  For the serious believer wanting a serious relationship with Christ, I can't think of anything more beneficial than to truly understand and absorb the principles related here.

Here's where you can get The Bondservant's Life from the publisher.  You can buy it with the Amazon gift card you get in your Christmas stocking.  :)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from bookcrash.com in exchange for an honest, objective review. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Inbox

So, y'all know I'm into studying the different ways people learn . . . the different ways people think . . . the different ways people approach the world . . . figuring out which of these ways are natural to them and which are learned behaviors . . . which are gifts to build on and which may, essentially, be the result of the Fall and need to be resisted . . .

Which brings me to my husband's email inbox.  I had occasion to see it recently.  You know the little number by the word "Inbox" that tells you how many unread emails are sitting in there waiting for your perusal?  His number was over 12,000.  Seriously.  And remember, those were just the unread ones -- there were more in there that he HAD read.  I nearly fell off the couch.

He explained to me that this particular email account was kind of intended for this purpose (he has another account for his job search emailing, another for his fantasy football communications).  This is the email address he puts on the various forms that you have to fill out where you know your address is going to be sold to people.  And he said it's a waste of time to delete those emails every day; the inbox has no limit to what it will hold, so there's no reason to delete anything.

I asked why he didn't unsubscribe to some of these lists so he didn't get their emails anymore if he had no intention of reading them.  He said something about the unsubscribing process letting the sender know that the email was an active account . . . okay, I'll take his word on that.  But I was still stunned.  I strongly suspect this is a right-brained thing (my right-brained eldest has over a thousand unread emails in her inbox -- mostly FB notifications).

But contrast this with my email behavior.  When I open my email, the first thing I do is hit the little check box on mail I have no intention of reading and delete them.  And if there is someone I keep getting emails from that I don't want, I unsubscribe.  When I know I'm done with the information in an email, I delete it.  Or if I suspect I may want it someday, I move it to a "Save" folder, but it does not remain in my face in the inbox.  I even delete the emails out of Spam almost every day.  If my inbox (or sent box, for that matter) has more than twenty-some emails, I get the urge to purge.  It's clutter.  It stresses me.  It must go.

And yes, I recognize that I'm probably more absurd than he is.

Yet, there's a part of me that thinks that, if hubby were to just manage his emails the way I do for a month, he would see how refreshing it is to not have all that clutter hanging around -- how freeing! -- and he would be motivated then to do it my way.  Mm-hmm.  He probably thinks the same about me.

Ah, well.  Vive la diffĂ©rence.  How boring would life be if we were all the same.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"The World Was Not Worthy of Them."

Hebrews 11: 32-38.  And what more shall I say?  I don't have time to tell about . . .

. . . about every other Old Testament giant of faith, people who put the rest of us wimpy American cultural Christians to shame.

. . . who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised . . . whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies . . .

Through their faith -- their assurance of things they hoped for, their certainty of things not yet seen -- these people were empowered to accomplish great things in the world.  To meet their responsibilities with unexplainable strength and success.  And we -- we struggle to find the strength to give up our donut and Angry Birds obsessions. 

. . . who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword . . . Women received back their dead, raised to life again . . .

But some not only were empowered to accomplish the everyday tasks of their lives in a great way (and that would be awesome enough for me), but were the recipients of miraculous intervention in their lives.  Miracles.  Beyond any natural explanation.  I suspect there are miracles happening around us all the time; we just don't have the eyes of faith to see them.  But I also suspect that most of us never have the opportunity to experience a miracle because we never step out to do bold things that can only succeed if God is behind them.

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. . . destitute, persecuted and mistreated . . .

And then there are those who submitted themselves to unjust persecution because they were sure of what they hoped for, certain of what they could not yet see.  There are still these giants of faith in our world right now.  Some days, it grieves me so much how we go to great extremes to avoid offending anyone of any other faith in our own or any country of the world -- and yet there are young people being killed by their parents, students being murdered on the road to school, fathers being imprisoned and tortured, only because they proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord.  And where is the outcry? 

And where is my shame that I am silenced merely by the fear of a disparaging look from my neighbor who suspects I'm a Jesus freak?

The world was not worthy of them.

Indeed.  Not worthy to touch the hem of their garments. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Budgets and Pies

Let's talk budgets.

In our family, I have the responsibility of writing the checks to pay the monthly bills (although I don't actually write many checks anymore -- we pay most things online -- but that's beside the point).  Our biggest check we cut each month is for the mortgage.  And yes, we could certainly have a smaller house and a smaller mortgage payment, but even if we downsized, our mortgage check would still be the largest each month.  A roof over one's head is expensive, period.  And putting a roof over the heads of the family is a basic, primary responsibility that MUST be met.

What I'm getting at is, the fact that our mortgage is the biggest chunk by far out of our monthly bills does not, in and of itself, imply any irresponsible spending on our part.

I bring this up because of a chart posted on FB yesterday by a friend.  It's a pie chart labeled "Discretionary Spending FY 2013", and it shows that military spending constitutes 56.94% of the spending.  That blue military piece of the pie appears to engulf the rest; everything else is a sliver (the next biggest slice is Education at 6.35%).  The unspoken message of this graphic is that our military spending is obscenely out of line because it takes so much of the pie.

And I take serious issue with this message.  Military spending SHOULD take, by far, the biggest chunk of the pie.  Frankly, if we're just talking percentages, I think it should take much more.  Now, I'm not saying there aren't cuts to be made in that department, and if the Republicans are refusing to consider military cuts, that's wrong (I don't know if they are or not -- I'm not following the Fiscal Cliff crisis because my heart simply can't handle that stress right now).

But as I've preached before:  I'm a libertarian-leaning conservative, and I believe there are a few specific, limited duties prescribed for our federal government and of those, the military is one of the most important -- and undoubtedly, the most expensive. There is simply no problem with the relative size of that slice of pie.  If that blue military piece shrinks as a result of upcoming negotiations, I will find THAT to be irresponsible on our government's part.  Reduce the dollar amounts, all of them -- don't just adjust where the money is allocated.  Or if allocation adjustments need to be made, give the largest allocations to the duties specifically prescribed to the federal government in the Constitution, such as the military.

Images are so powerful.  But they can be so deceiving, too.  Let's use our eyes responsibly by engaging our brains as well.  Thank you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rahab: Beauty for Ashes

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.  (Heb 11:31)

I've always felt kind of sorry for Rahab because she is forever saddled with the moniker, "the prostitute".  Talk about not being able to live down your past.  But she's actually a pretty inspiring person.

If you're not familiar with her story, you can find it in Joshua 2.  The Israelites sent spies into Jericho to check things out before attacking, and Rahab hid them and snuck them out of the city.  Her reason?

She tells the spies that everyone is in great fear of the Israelites because they've heard of the miracles God did for them to bring them out of Egypt and into Palestine.  And she, Rahab, is convinced that "the Lord has given you this land . . . for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below."  Interesting that everyone in Jericho was afraid of this God, but only she switched sides.  Only she had enough of an inkling of who the Lord their God really was to be willing to submit to that God's will.  Nothing but an inkling, perhaps, but it was enough, and she acted on it.

I was really struck by the fact that she referred to him as "the Lord your God."  He's your God.  He's clearly greater than my God, but he's not my God.  However, her name appears in the geneology of Christ as the mother of Boaz, so apparently she made her home with the Israelites after this and, presumably, did the Ruth thing: "Your people will be my people; your God my God."  Interesting enough, three of the four women mentioned in the Matthew 1 geneology (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) were known for their immorality -- specifically their sexual immorality.

Personally, I find it encouraging that God can take someone from a place of ugly sin and use them for his kingdom.  We don't even have any certain record in the Bible that these women really turned their lives around or anything, although I think most theologians presume that they did.  But maybe they didn't.  God still used them -- how much more can he use a broken me when I do allow him to turn my life around?  But in any case, God intentionally wanted the names of these overtly sinful women included in the human geneology of his Son.  He wanted us to see how he can create beauty from ashes.

That phrase is Biblical, too -- from Isaiah 61, the passage that Jesus read in the temple to announce his purpose for coming to earth:  to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Folks, we can never dig ourselves into a pit too deep for God to pull us out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hurricanes


“While living in South Florida, I considered hurricanes to be mistakes of nature. However, I soon discovered hurricanes are necessary to maintain a balance in the environment….”
 I copied and pasted this paragraph recently so I could ponder it some more.  I hated to remark on it while Sandy was so in the forefront of our minds. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy the source, so I can’t give credit for who is speaking here.  But I want to write about it anyway.  I find I need to regularly be reminded of the value of the hurricanes God allows to wreak havoc in my life.
“We all know the devastation these monstrous storms can cause, yet scientists tell us that hurricanes are also tremendously valuable because they reduce a large percentage of the oppressive heat that builds up at the equator. I haven’t looked up the etymology, but surely the word oppressive comes from the same root as pressure.  Heat – tension – friction – that results in pressure and oppression that builds and builds . . . yes, this feels very familiar.
“In fact, hurricanes are indirectly responsible for much of the rainfall in North and South America.”  Interesting how rain in moderate amounts, spread over a reasonable time span, is not only helpful but crucial.  We must have rain.  Living things can’t survive without it.  But it is more beneficial when it comes as a long-term drizzle than as a torrential downpour.  The drizzle can be emotionally draining, but the earth needs time to soak in the moisture a little at a time to make use of it.  I’m trying to learn to accept rain in my life in drizzle format so it can do its work.
On the other hand, there is a cleansing quality to the torrential downpour.  Every spring in New Jersey, there was a massive pollen dump one day that left an ugly dusting of yellow powdery gunk all over everything outdoors.  It really freaked me out the first time I saw it.  Within a couple years, I learned that the only way to completely get rid of it was a good hard rain.
 “Meteorologists no longer use cloud-seeding techniques to prevent hurricanes from being formed because they are convinced that hurricanes actually do more good than harm.”  Here’s where I suspect I run the danger of extending a metaphor too far.  Hurricanes, when they come, come only by God’s permission and with a purpose to accomplish.  But I won’t go so far as to encourage anyone not to try to prevent them from forming.  If one can find a less destructive way to release the oppressive heat, by all means, find it.  Accept the drizzle when you can, and avoid the storm.  The storm’s precipitation may help us grow, but the wind will always leave scars.
On the other hand, the wind can also make us strong . . . force us to grow deep, sustaining roots . . . shape us to fit our environment and thrive there . . . it makes us who we need to be.  God is perfectly capable of stopping the hurricane, but perhaps he sees the good that he can bring from it far better than we do.  No, I’m never going to stop trying to prevent hurricanes in my life.  But when they come – as they inevitably will – I will choose to get the benefit from them rather than lay down and allow them to break me.
And for the record – yes, friends, I’m well aware that this theme keeps cropping up in my posts.  J

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Teenage Boys


Having a lovely 16-year-old girl in my home has resulted in my being exposed to an interesting array of goofy teenage boys.  Okay, so the goofiness isn’t always a primary quality of their characters, but they definitely have their goofy ways.  I so often find myself wanting to sit these boys down and fill them in on things.  Particularly on the ways of women. 
Of course, I resist the temptation.  I don’t want to be THAT mom.  Both of my girls would probably be mortified.  But I have a blog and can write what I want here, so here goes my lecture:
 
Boys, you stress about the wrong things.  Looks just aren’t that big of a deal.  Yes, get a decent haircut, take care of your skin, pick your clothes with a bit of care, and bathe regularly.  But the girls who refuse to date anyone who is not drop-dead gorgeous are not the kind of girls you want a relationship with anyway -- they will constantly be looking around for a better-looking guy.
Being fit and active is attractive, but wash-board abs are pointless.  Scrap the stupid photos of yourself shirtless in front of the bathroom mirror.  Nobody cares – and again, the girls who do care are not girls you want.
Money – meh.  It comes and goes.  Same with all the material things – cars and such.  Athletic ability is admirable, but no more so than any other ability.  No, I'm not kidding about that.  I know it seems like the jocks get all the attention, but that's just because their ability is out there for display more.
You want to know the number one quality that makes a guy attractive to a girl?  Here it is – the magic formula:  CONFIDENCE.  Not arrogance – that’s something else entirely (don't miss that crucial point).  When a guy is confident . . . when he knows who he is, what he can do and can’t do, what he values, what he believes, where he intends to go in life . . . when he can stand up to criticism without wilting, when he can accept challenge as a welcome opportunity to grow . . . I'm telling you, this is almost irresistible.  I have seen some really homely-looking men fighting off beautiful woman after beautiful woman because of the air of confidence they have around them.  To a woman, they feel solid.  Reliable.  Strong.  Safe.  A rock.  Don’t under-estimate the strong female need for security.
Now, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that girls your age are mature enough to pick the average-looking confident boy over the arrogant, popular jock.  They are still in high school.  They are still immature.  But I will tell you that they will respect you more, and they will come to you when their arrogant jock boyfriends let them down -- which they always will.  AND, I can almost assure you: once you get to the later college years and beyond, you will have it all over the shallow pretty-boys. 
Confidence is key.  Start building that confidence now -- not by acting confident when you have no reason to be so (that's arrogance), but by doing the legitimate work to become a man whom a woman would want someday.  Get an education.  Figure out what you're good at and get better at it.  Find your weaknesses and work on them.  Have a vision for your future that is realistic and exciting.  Be passionate about something that matters.  Do hard things.  Find an identity that has nothing to do with who's crushing on you.  Know thyself, as Socrates says.  Get to know the God who made you so he can fill you in about what you were made for.
And be patient.  You'll thank me someday.

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stupid Human Tricks

I can't write about Thanksgiving today because my heart is genuinely too full of the things I'm thankful for to write about them.  I can't write about Black Friday, because it will make me angry enough to drive away the heart of Thanksgiving which I'm not ready to give up yet.  So, despite the fact that the holidays gave me an excuse to take a break from my Hebrews 11 faith portrait series, I'm back again learning from Moses:

By faith, he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (v.28)   Thematically, I couple this with verse 30 a little later: By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after the Israelites had marched around them for seven days.

These fall into the category of "Stupid Human Tricks God Asks Us to Do".  There are many times God asks us to do things that, in our human understanding, make just no sense.

A wife friend of mine realized that God wanted her to leave some major family decisions in her wishy-washy husband's hands, even though she was convinced he would crash and burn.  God consistently told a man I know to reveal something he'd hidden from his wife, even though he knew it would hurt her and ignorance had left her in apparent bliss.  Two more wife friends felt led by God to wear only skirts or dresses during certain situations with their husbands, as a physical reminder to themselves of the different roles between them.  Such stuff doesn't make sense. We have such arrogant dependence on our own perspective of a situation, refusing to rely on God's knowledge of the spiritual underpinnings we can't conceive of.

We don't have to look in the Bible for examples of God asking things of us that make no human sense -- life is full of examples.  The nice thing about the Bible's examples, though, is that most of the time, we are given the perspective to see the ultimate whys in the strange requests of God.  God brought down the walls of Jericho to convince the people of Israel from day one of their conquest of the Promised Land that He was the one doing the conquering -- their only role was to praise and obey, teaching them the nature of their covenant and relationship.  God gave the passover ceremony to Moses and the Istraelites to observe on a yearly basis to be an annual picture in their faces of what he'd later be doing with his Son, so they'd recognize him when he came.  (A Jewish believing friend in a Bible study pointed out once the significance of the specific hours mentioned during Jesus' crucifixion -- that the hour he died was exactly the hour that the Passover lamb which the priests sacrifice in the temple to atone for the sins of the whole nation was being killed).

At a BSU Bible study in college, the leader made a statement that at the time was revolutionary for me: "Sometimes God's will flies in the face of human common sense."  Which, if He is truly God, only stands to reason.  But as I said, it was revolutionary for me at the time to consider that I had been limiting God by forcing him to fit into my own puny human reasoning.  Yes, our brain power is from God, and we are insructed to "always be prepared to give a reason", but we need to also accept that truth can be beyond our reasoning and still be absolutely true.

So how do we know what's true?  The same way the Israelites knew what was true.  They obeyed.  They were sure of what they hoped for and hadn't seen -- they were sure that God was God -- and acted on that, marching around a walled cities for seven days.  In a sense, they didn't really know until the walls fall down without their touching them.  But in another sense, they knew from the first step they took to march.

Praying in this holiday season that all of us will have the faith to continue to march and blow our trumpets -- and to give only God the glory when the falls wall down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

That Sweet, Innocent, Little Baby . . .

I wrote something a while back where I asserted that we are all born selfish and sinful, and a friend on FB took offense at the remark.  I told her I'd try to write about that sometime and explain myself, and another FB friend gave me the opportunity yesterday.  She posted to my wall a 60 Minutes story called "Babies help unlock the origins of morality."  A perfect launching pad for this discussion.

The story describes research being done on children, particularly infants, to look for how a sense of morality develops -- or more accurately, what morality we have innately.  But I want to start by stating my natural suspicious of any and all scientific research I hear about anymore.  Objective science is like objective journalism -- an ideal we all hope for and desperately need, but virtually non-existent.  We do best to approach both entities with a reasonable level of suspicion, perhaps all the more when they seem to support views we want to believe.

Anyway, here are some of the conclusions this research comes to:

1) Babies, even from just a few months old, have a natural preference for moral behavior (that is, for puppets they observe who display moral behavior).

2) Babies, even from just a few months old, have a natural preference for people who are like them, even in the most superficial commonalities (actually, they are only able to study the most superficial of commonalities in baby preferences).

3) Children's preference for commonality over-rides their preference for morality; they prefer bad people who are like them to good people who are different from them.  (The story implies that this is a basis for racism -- I think that's an interesting hypothesis, but I also think it could have a lot to do with a child's limited abstract thinking ability.)

4) Children at a very young age will choose an unjust situation that favors themselves over a fair and just situation that is better for everyone involved; being one-up to another person is most important.  This tendency, however, decreases as we mature -- which they attribute to societal teaching (but, again, I suspect may also relate to maturing thought processes).

Overall, nothing here is surprising.  Interesting, yes, but not surprising.  The Bible teaches that we are created in the image of God, and therefore, a recognition of and desire for righteousness is in our nature.  In fact, the fact that we do have an innate sense of what is right and wrong despite how we may be taught or raised is the basis for our judgment in the eyes of God. The problem is that we consistently fail to do what we know is right.  As much as we admire morality and hold it up as an ideal, we still act in accordance with our selfish, immediate desires, even when our consciences condemn us.  Yes, we may get better with maturity (some of us . . . ), but not too much better -- frankly, what we really get better at is rationalizing our selfish behavior, making it look good to others and sound good to ourselves.  (And, by extension, rationalizing the selfish behavior of the fruit of our loins.)

Romans 3:10 says, "There is no one righteous, not even one."  Not even one.  "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51.5)  All appearances and wishful thinking aside, I still contend that we are born selfish little snits.  Adorable, but selfish.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Who's the Obedient One?

A Jewish friend at church in NJ once loaned me a book from her child's Hebrew school, just because I was curious to see it.  I remember a story they used to introduce the theme for one lesson.  Here's the gist of it:

A woman in a great moment of crisis and need wandered into a downtown business office at almost closing time when there were only one woman and one man left working.  With tears, she recounted the troubles she was experiencing and humbly asked if they would be willing to give her some money to help her pull through.  The businesswoman stopped her work and sat beside the distressed woman, holding her hand and listening attentively and compassionately to her story.  The man, however, glanced up from his work with a contemptuous grunt and gave her little heed.

As the two women were tearfully discussing the situation, the man packed his things and, on his way out the door, handed the needy woman a substantial check -- then left without a word.  The businesswoman sat with the woman longer, crying with her and encouraging her -- but soon sent her on her way without giving her any money.

Which person obeyed the law's command to help the poor and needy?  The man, said the book.  You are to give, period.  Your feelings about the matter are of no consequence.

On the one hand, I saw a valid point here.  All the compassion in the world didn't meet that woman's immediate financial needs.  And there are certainly a lot of us who shed literal or figurative tears over the needs of humanity without lifting a finger to alleviate them, even if just to mail a check. On the other hand, if this is an accurate interpretation of the Torah's teaching (and I really wonder if it is....), it is teaching that is altered in the New Testament:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)

Your feelings about the matter are important.  Not only does your compassion lift the heart of the one you help, but it shapes your own heart.  God is concerned not only with material poverty but with spiritual poverty -- in the giver and the receiver.  If necessary, He could zap down a pile of cash on the needy woman's kitchen counter to meet her needs.  He chooses instead to have those needs met through another person because THAT meets not only the material needs but also the spiritual needs -- of both people.

I become more convicted every day of the primacy of relationship . . .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seeing the Invisible

By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Heb 11:27)

Moses saw him who is invisible -- that is, God, of course.  How did he see him?  The burning bush, I assume.  He didn't see a physical being that was God (only first century folks living in Palestine had that privilege), but he saw a physical, material phenomenon that had no explanation and heard God speaking to him to authenticate the vision.

Kind of like how nobody can see the wind, but we do see the tree branches sway.

I wish God would make himself evident in this physical, material way more often.  It has happened to me on a couple of rare occasions.  Nothing as dramatic as a burning bush that is not consumed, certainly.  But a couple of honest-to-goodness material happenings here on earth that had no other explanation than that God reached down and acted in our measly human affairs.  Moments when I was sure of what I hoped for -- certain of what I could not see.

Here's the difference between me and Moses:  he saw him who is invisible, and it caused him to persevere.  I saw him who is invisible, walked in a spiritual high for a while, then gradually grew less and less certain of what I had experienced.  Moses is an example of faith.  I am an example of . . . something else.

I wish those experiences happened more often; but if they did, frankly, my spiritual walk wouldn't require much faith.  More physical manifestations of God would not strengthen me, I suspect.  They would make me reliant on the physical manifestations, not on faith.  (Remember: without faith, it is impossible to please God....)

Jesus came to earth and did miracles as initial evidence to those first century Christians of who he was -- but then he left, and they were expected to persevere.  Impossible in our human frailness . . . which is why he sent the Spirit.  Really, the church just doesn't teach enough about living in the Spirit . . .

In any case, I am thankful this morning (during this thankful month) that God, in his omniscience, knows when we need to see him who is invisible and meets us -- literally -- at our point of need.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:13)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who's Out There?

This is a very selfish post.  Here's the thing: when I look on my Blogger stats every day, to see who's reading my posts, I find pageviews from places that boggle my mind.  Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Australia, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago . . . I had 16 pageviews in one day from Latvia!  I'm not even sure where Latvia is!  My post a month ago about Abraham and Aslan has gotten 150 pageviews and gets more, literally, every day -- which I find amazing.

I post links to my new blog posts on Facebook, but other than that, I have no idea where my readers are coming from.  I have no acquaintances in Latvia.  And lately, I've been burning with curiosity to know. 

So . . . again, this is selfish.  But if you're one of those readers (even if you're here in the good 'ole U. S. of A.) who does not know me personally but is reading what I write, would you drop me a line and let me know how you happened upon this blog?  Like I said . . . I'm soooooo curious . . . :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Men

About fourteen or fifiteen years ago, details began to surface in the media indicating that Bill Clinton had had an affair with a young intern while in the White House.  Clinton denied every allegation, wagging his finger with angry self-righteousness at the press -- and by proxy, at the American people -- telling us all, "Now you listen to me: I did not have sexual relations with that woman . . . "  As information started coming out of the woodwork, he and his people (including his wife), blamed it all on a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to bring him down.  And the stories continued to swirl.

Only when the entire country seemed to be thoroughly convinced of his falsehoods did he make a public confession of sorts.  A calculated statement that vaguely confessed to doing something "wrong" and urged the country to let him deal with that on his own and move on.  He continued to insist that what he had done did not qualify as sexual relations, quabbled about the meaning of the word "is", and continually blamed his political opponents for choosing to make this an issue and not "moving on".  We moved on with impeachment proceedings which divided the country and allowed this man to appear a martyr to the liberal cause.  And ultimately, even though his womanizing ways have become a national joke, he is one of the best loved (??) and most listened to (!!) former presidents alive.

This is called self-marketing and chutzpah.

In the last few weeks, details have apparently been surfacing behind the scenes at the CIA indicating that Director David Petraeus had engaged in sexual misconduct.  Little is known as yet about the details of this thing, but before any of the rest of the world had heard boo about it, Petraeus was in the President's office offering his resignation.  He immediately made a public statement to the country confessing specifically to his lack of wisdom and an extramarital affair.  He humbly admitted to his wrongs and accepted the disgrace that would result.

This is called humility and integrity.

That is the way to do this, folks.

Just sayin'.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Moses and the Hard Path


By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.  (Heb 11:24-26)
So here is an example of an extreme kind of faith:  faith that leads you to choose suffering when you don’t have to.  To choose the hard path rather than the easy path.
Not to toot my own horn (because it really doesn’t deserve much tooting in this arena), but I have experienced an occasion of this.  The month before we started our first year of homeschooling, my eldest and I were at each other’s throats.  She was extremely trying and I was maddeningly impatient, and I was genuinely afraid I would kill her by February.  Every day, I pondered how easy it would be to send her off to school again that Tuesday after Labor Day.  Why was I doing this to myself?  But ultimately, I had faith that God really had called me to do this, that he really was going to teach us how to get along, that this really would be the best thing for our whole family in the long run.  By the next September, I watched the school bus drive by on the first day of school and was so grateful that my daughter was not on it.
But this can hardly touch what other people choose to endure for the sake of Christ.  There are converts in other countries who are killed because they refuse to deny their Lord.  But even if we look closer to home and less to the extreme – there are people who choose to give up easy, luxurious lifestyles to live in impoverished areas to minister to the people there.  I recently heard a friend tell about a medical mission trip she went on where a couple of the volunteer medical personnel were accidentally exposed to HIV-positive blood.  They knew going in that they were taking that risk – but they chose to go anyway.
And here I’m proud of myself for choosing to spend all day in my comfortable house with my own difficult daughter.  Psshhht.
Going back to the beginning of this chapter, to the definition of faith:  faith is being sure of what is hoped for, certain of what is not seen.  The passage above says Moses willingly endured what he did “because he was looking ahead to his reward.”  What he hoped for, what was not seen, was the reward waiting for him at the end of his trials.  And there’s where I have trouble having faith, I think.  Believing that there will be a reward at the end of my suffering (wimpy suffering, though it is), and that the reward will be better than what I’m giving up.
Many years ago, there was a book out (the title of which escapes me) about a "Christ-centered approach to weight loss".  At the end of one of the chapters, the author described a moment of weakness she experienced where she so desperately wanted to stuff her face with something sweet and fattening, and she cried out to God, “Lord!  Show me You can satisfy better than these!”
That’s my cry.  “Show me You can satisfy better than these!”  Again, what I’m constantly reminded as I’m writing this series of posts is that I don’t really have faith that God can satisfy unless I choose to give up other candidates for my satisfaction.  Faith is not faith unless it is acted on.
And now it occurs to me that choosing the hard path isn’t maybe as extreme a kind of faith as I thought.  Maybe it’s the essence of faith after all.

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bring It On

I was determined not to write about the election this morning, no matter what the results.  But the despair floating around my FB newsfeed from conservative friends prompts me to speak -- although I'm not sure what to say.  My own emotions are feeling a little raw, but I think they would have felt this way even with a Romney victory.

Yesterday morning, I almost wrote a friend of mine (one my husband and I have recently dubbed my RLF -- "Reasonable Liberal Friend") to ease his mind of his anxieties over a Romney administration.  If Romney wins, I was going to say, it's a small victory.  I'm quite confident your side will win the war.  I didn't write it, because it sounded so defeatist and pessimistic, not qualities I like to encourage in myself.  But the truth is, there is some optimism in my defeatism -- I'm just having a hard time explaining it.

Several ideas from my readings and all have been swirling and converging in my mind in the last couple days.  I've been searching frantically for the ultimate "aha" moment in their convergence, but I don't think I'm there yet.  They still swirl . . . the idea from one book that we are bondservants of Christ, and the many things that title entails.  The premise from a book I'm reading with my youngest encouraging teenagers to defy the low expectations of our culture and "do hard things".  The memory of a man I heard from a former Soviet block country speaking of how weak and shallow the faith of the church in his land had grown since the persecution subsided, and his cries to God, asking, "Why did He take away the blessing of persecution?"

I've read -- and re-read -- a book this year called Radical: Reclaiming Your Faith from the American Dream.  It opened my eyes to how much we have tried to mesh the holy and separate life God calls his bondservants to with the unholy, carnal life that America glorifies.  How our country, in whatever image we create our ideal country, has become an idol, replacing the true God who calls us to something else entirely.

And I'm remembering a speaker from many, many years ago, talking about planting an evangelical church in Salt Lake City and going in with a Daniel form of ministry, as opposed to a David-and-Goliath approach.  David fought Goliath as a warrior attacks an intruder.  Daniel, on the other hand, was a guest in a foreign, pagan land.  He simply lived his life of faith quietly and courageously, praying for an opportunity to testify to truth when his neighbors noticed the difference in him.  This rings true to me more and more every day.

Here's where I am, I guess.  I fully expect the Obama vision to continue its march in America.  I fully expect the U.S. to eventually lose most of the great qualities that distinguishes us as Americans.  Like Israel asking for a king to be like all the other nations, we will cry out for Western European lifestyles so we become like everyone else . . .  kidults that we are.  This makes me sad for my country. 

Yet, I'm not in despair, because while I'm proud to be an American, my true citizenship is elsewhere.  And somehow, deep down, I suspect that this may be what needs to happen for the church.  The church in America is soft, wimpy, indistinguishable from its various counterparts in anything but the most surface level, meaningless qualities.  I think we could use some genuine persecution.  I think we need to do be forced to do the hard things.  I think we need to humble ourselves and "be made new" again.  And I think it will take a dominant secular culture to re-define us -- to separate the true bondservants from the faithless sycophants.

I awoke this morning sad that our wimpiness is revealed.  I awoke this morning ready for revival, whatever is necessary to make it happen.  And I awoke this morning ready to polish my armor and weaponry.

Bring it on.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I'm Voting for Romney


Tomorrow morning, I’ll be taking my youngest for a civics field trip – to the voting booth where I will vote for Mitt Romney.  I’m sure my presidential choice is not a surprise to any of you who read this blog regularly; nevertheless, if you'll indulge me, I would like to take a moment explain to you why I’m voting for Romney.
It’s not because I have a particular affinity for the man.  I suppose he’s likeable enough in his presentation of himself.  But most people out there experiencing his kind of success in business and/or politics have a strong streak of ruthlessness.  They’re not generally nice guys in practice, even if they appear one on the surface.  And he has played the politician’s game of saying what needs to be said to get elected.  I’m not sure of his deepest convictions on social issues.  I'm not confident what his view of the role of government is.  I don’t have a good grasp of what he specifically intends to do to fix the economy.  I’m not certain what he plans to do with his four years in office.
But here’s the thing:  I’m pretty confident about what Obama intends to do with four more years in office, and this is why I can’t vote for him.  Obama may be a decent enough guy on a personal level, but I’m not happy with the direction he has taken the country while he’s been President. 
I never thought the stimulus plan was going to help the economy, and it hasn’t.  (Interesting to me that my husband said almost from the very beginning of O’s administration that he would get re-elected no matter what, because by the end of four years, the recession was going to work itself out and start back on an upswing and he would get credit for it.)  Obamacare is a very bad idea, in my opinion – and from day one I argued that we simply couldn’t afford it even if it was a good idea.  The national debt is . . . oh, my gosh, there aren’t words.  Beyond a disgrace.  It’s inconceivable the mess we have gotten ourselves into. 
 The “worldview” that Obama promotes does not mesh with mine.  I am a conservative; I may even dance close to being a libertarian.  I believe that it is not the government’s job to make people’s lives better – it is the government’s job to ensure that everyone has the freedom to make their own and their neighbors’ lives better.  Unfortunately, that means we also have the freedom to be selfish and heartless, but if our government is not a religious institution – and it most certainly is NOT – than it is not in the business of making people less selfish and heartless.  In fact, I consider it very dangerous to assign that task to the State.  Giving government the power to do all the “good things” that the liberals want the government to do (and even some of the good things the conservatives want it to do) means also giving government the power to do a lot of bad things.  We will regret it someday.  Most of us conservatives already regret the power we’ve given the government in the last century or so.
I don't doubt our president's sincerity.  I don't suspect him of selfishness or power-lust or even necessarily of stupidity.  I think he genuinely believes that he is making the country a better place.  I just believe he is very mistaken.
Romney isn’t a certainty (nobody would be), but I’m confident his administration will be closer to what I want than a second Obama administration will be.  He is the lesser of two evils.  One of these days, I hope to have the opportunity to vote for someone whom I really believe in.  This is not the year.  But I do have the opportunity this year to vote against a vision for the country that I definitely disagree with.
All this said, I am thankful for a video shared with me yesterday (by a non-Christian friend, interestingly enough) which reminded me that no matter who is president, a Sovereign even greater is in control.  My President is not my salvation.  My country is not my salvation.  My salvation comes from the Lord.  I refuse to despair.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What a Year

We interrupt this Friday Faith Portraits series for an important announcement:  it's SHOW DAY!

Today I'm directing 26 2nd-5th grade homeschoolers in a little play that I wrote called "Wemmicksville" (free performances at 4pm and 6:30pm at Sunnybrook Church, for any Siouxland readers who want to join us).  I'm kind of a flutter of mixed emotions today.

"Wemmicksville", a play based on
Max Lucado's children's books
To start with, I'm amazingly NOT nervous.  I was nervous yesterday for dress rehearsal, which was weird.  I usually have a brain-numb, body-jittery feeling all day the day of a show.  Maybe that's still coming (it's early), but right now, I'm good.  This is as polished as this show is going to be.  About two-thirds of these little ones are making their stage debut today, and I expect some baubles, but it'll all be good.  The kids are cute, and they've come a long way.  I'm proud of them.

I'm also feeling a little melancholy because I expect this to be my last show with FOCUS Players.  But then, I expected the spring one to be my last one.  And before that, I expected last fall's show to be the last one.  Honestly, I never DREAMED we'd still be in town to do a play this school year . . .

Which brings me to the other emotion I'm dealing with, one which I can't quite define.  It was the night before the FOCUS play last fall that hubby told me his job at Blue Bunny had been eliminated.  It's been a year.  And such a year.  If you had told me then that we'd still be waiting for employment after a year, I would have cried.

But it really hasn't been terrible.  My husband has been wise in how he invested our money, and we have been wise in spending over the years (insert political comment here), so financially, we are okay and should be okay for still a while longer, if necessary.  I expected he and I to be at each other's throats being around each other all day long, but we haven't been.  In fact, I enjoy having him around. 

The hardest part has been not being able to plan much for the immediate future.  The start of the school year was tough -- we hadn't expected to be here and didn't expect to be here long, so we've been reluctant to commit to activities, groups, etc.  (Even the play -- I had another director lined up ready to step in and take over if we had to leave mid-course.)  But frankly, I think this has been good for me.  I'm not naturally a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow person.  God has forced me into that mindset this year.  I'm having to depend on him day to day.  I'm having to live in the moment -- do what feels like the right thing to do right now, not worrying about the long-term issues.  I can't do anything about them anyway.

Amazingly, I can say now that this has been a good year.  A year of adventure (hit the Panama link to the right to read about that), a year of togetherness, a year of growth, a year of challenge.....

But I'll admit, I'm ready for less challenge.  I'm ready for a job for hubby.  Prayers appreciated.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Just Let Me Enjoy Science for a Bit.....

My friend Kim spoke last night at the homeschool Mother's Night Out about teaching science.  I have a confession to make: I hate teaching science.  Another confession:  I hated learning science . . . which may relate to why I hate teaching science.  My girls don't enjoy science either . . . which may relate to my distaste for teaching science.  But probably not; they're both like me -- they're more History and English gals.  History and English deal with stuff in my brain; Science deals with stuff in my hands.  I'm not as good with stuff in my hands as with stuff in my brain.

But a couple weeks ago, my youngest and I finished a unit on Astronomy, and it was probably my favorite science unit we've done.  My one guilt trip about it is that we only did one experiment.  But then, it's astronomy -- not a lot of experimenting a middle schooler can do on outer space.  The experiments were always my least favorite part of science, which I know sounds crazy because that's usually what people enjoy the most.  But my experiments inevitably fail.

Case in point: in high school Chemistry, the teacher told us if we wanted an A or B for the second semester, we had to stay after class one day and do an extra experiment.  He gave us a test tube with a mystery substance in it.  We had to figure out what the substance was and how much of it there was.  The amount of the substance we figured out by weighing the test tube, dumping the stuff out, weighing the empty test tube, and then subtracting.  Easy as pie, yes?  Every time I did this experiment (and I stayed and did it six or seven times, mind you), the empty test tube weighed more than the full test tube.  I even had Mr. Judd walk through it with me step by step, and he couldn't figure out what I did wrong.  At least he acted like he couldn't.  He joked about my having discovered a negative weight, and I couldn't tell if he was mocking me or not.  In any case, I took my C -- my only C in high school -- C for Chemistry, which I hate.

But back to this Astronomy unit.  I found a wonderful free website:  bubbl.us.  You can create a "bubble web" to organize information.  So we checked out piles of kids' astronomy books, read them, and created a big bubble web organizing all the information about the life stage of a star, the definition of a planet, the zodiac signs, the NASA space programs, the astronomers from the middle ages . . . honestly, we loved it!  I think this fit the way Kiddo's and my brains work -- the left-brained stuff. 

We also read a science fiction book, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, to pull it all together.  And we looked up video of the space shuttle explosion and audio of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast.  And we watched Apollo 13.  And when the play is over, we're going to the science museum in Des Moines where they have a Mars exhibit going on right now.  Loved.  This.  Unit.

But only one experiment.  Somebody tell me that's okay -- because I'm enjoying science right now, and I don't want to let go of that yet.